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It’s Not Naha 2.0, but a Critic Feels Reverberations at the Chef’s New Restaurant

Plus, Gaijin wins over another critic in West Loop

Kostali is the Nahebedians new restaurant.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

Kostali “has enough echoes of Naha that longtime fans will embrace it,” writes Phil Vettel. The Gwen hotel’s new restaurant from chef Carrie Nahabedian and cousin Michael Nahabedian takes inspiration from the Mediterranean coast as well as the duo’s shuttered Michelin-starred spot. Phyllo triangles stuffed with cheeses and dusted with zaatar spice are a “yummy little four-bites-and-gone snack,” while “light and velvety” hummus arrives alongside a ragout of spiced ground lamb, raisins, currants, and onion. The seafood selection touts a “beautifully bronzed” skate wing that “might have been magically whisked directly from Provence, were it not for the gently sweet Afghani raisins on the plate.” Black cod over a bed of flageolet beans, fennel, and citrus similarly “offers great flavor and superb balance.” The standout dessert is the Basque cake, which sits on mascarpone and is topped with halvah ice cream and sugar-cookie ribbons. [Tribune]

Gaijin has “quickly become a magnet for West Loopers hungry for something interesting and not crazily overpriced” according to Joanne Trestrail. Chef Paul Virant’s restaurant specializes in okonomiyaki — savory pancakes — that “combine the heft of a giant omelet or burrito with the go-for-broke fun of imaginatively accessorized nachos, with Japanese tastes and textures coming at you from every direction.” Unfortunately, the Osaka-style version topped with Amish chicken confit and the Hiroshima-style vegetarian offering are both “goopy, sweet and [have] too many things going on for any ingredient to stand out.” The rest of the menu is more successful as crudites with shiro-miso dip start the meal off in “high style,” and shrimp and pork belly yakisoba are also excellent. For dessert, the “large and beautiful” kakigori hides a “nice surprise” — a scoop of “great” black-sesame ice cream. [Crain’s]


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